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Out On The Carbon

Jared and I had talked over a couple hikes with visions of grandeur that were promptly smacked down due to the ever lingering snow levels here in Western Washington. Even a week of higher than average temperatures couldn’t blow it all out. Oh well! So we decided instead to just make miles and get some looking in. While I hike often out on the Carbon River at Rainier, I hadn’t been all the way out to Ipsut Creek since 2007 – and I hadn’t been up the actual Carbon River Trail (ie. The Wonderland Trail) since the summer of 2006 – due to the 2006 floods. Things have changed to say the least in the past 3 years since I had been there. The upper reaches of the Carbon River Rd have become trail like – more work has been done. The last time I was out there the “trail” was still through the twisted remains of the road. The alders have sprouted up so quickly that areas that once had parking spots now don’t catch the eyes. An island of trees now blocks the view of Chenius Falls across the Carbon. 3 years ago you could see it clearly. Being a temperate rain-forest one can see it easily slipping into a moss covered quietness in the next 5 years and that most of the ‘markers’ that signaled it being a road will be gone – and just a trail left. Kirk told me to go and I went on my first longer hike without Walker. Missed him terribly but being out was also good for me – and Walker about jumped into my arms when I got home last night 🙂

One of the bigger changes was an actual bridge over Ipsut Creek – in 2007 it was a log, planed on the top with a hand rail. The other thing I am now picking my brain about is did the old ranger station cabin get removed? I remember it being there in 2007, it had barely escaped the floods but I don’t remember seeing it this trip?

We went through the old car campground and headed up the Wonderland Trail (or also called the Carbon Glacier Trail) and took the side to Ipsut Falls. It had provided water to the car CG for many years. The old building that housed the pump-house that I had last seen in 2003 – with a tiny Ford hiking behind me – is nearly gone now with a couple trees through it (you can see the trail in the shadows to the left):

Ipsut Falls is a sweet treat to see. I can actually say that it is a worthwhile hike to just go there. My photo sadly does not show it well. The falls sit at the end of short gorge of sorts. It is shaded and about 10° cooler than 200 feet away on the WT. The waterfall takes a couple turns and drops around 60 feet in total. The other significance is that the creek is clear till here. Just s a few yards down a section of the glacial till full Carbon River jumped its channel at some point. It ripped through the WT and now dumps into the Ipsut. At the CG the creek runs milky in color, not clear like it did in 2007. Definitely worth the extra 1/5th of a mile or so to walk up there for water if one is camping at Ipsut (which has been a backcountry camp since 2007).

We got water – while it wasn’t as hot as this past week was (we had a mini heatwave last week where it topped 95° at our house. Yech. No like. Today it was 55° – more my idea of nice.) and headed up the WT. About a mile in you come to the end of the trail and a series of bridges built over a channel of the Carbon, 3 bridges in total. They cross the river twice and once over a snagged pile of trees. It is actually quite inventive of the rangers in “fixing” the issue. The river has eaten that section of trail clean off  the wall.

We went as far as the Northern Loop Junction. The trail on this side of the river is closed not far beyond, one of the after effects of the 2006 floods was the trail was wiped away clean. It was on the bottom of an unstable slope. Now to go to the Carbon Glacier you must cross the Carbon River on a couple channels (2 shown below), go through the island of trees and cross more. It varies by the year on how many crossings! Jared and I had not seen anyone until this point when a couple groups of young guys caught up to us.

Looking upriver:

Keen trail runners, OR low gaiters and a seat along one of the wildest rivers I love:

Heading back down – the trail varies from deep forest to many open (scoured) avy slopes that are full of thick vegetation – including enough blooming Cow-parsnips for the summer (I have never been a fan of the sickly sweet perfume they let off on hot days but I am sure many others love it…..)

Very low growing Cloudberry that caught my eye near the junction to Ipsut Falls. It would be very easy to not see it but what a loss to not see it!

The section where the Carbon sent a small channel through, near the junction with Ipsut Falls. It is now a massive tree graveyard. You can see the WT on the right.

Unalaska Bunchberry (Canadian Dogwood) flowering about 6 feet up on this cedar tree (An Alaska Yellow?):

As we came back through the Ipsut Creek campground what caught my eye was this food bag hanging from a bear pole. While the bear pole provided safety for the food….said picnic table being right under it didn’t bode well – all a bear would have had to do is step up on it and have a free snack with no sweating. Doh!

We stopped in the CG and had lunch and a break knowing we had another shy 5 miles to do.Jared had started rehydrating his lunch back at our turnaround – his mix of beans and chicken:

He made it into a sammie – since he found out he had no tortillas upon getting his pack ready:

My lunch was…well….different to say the least. I had some leftover commercial meals from the late spring presentations and wanted to clean them out. I grabbed one without quite reading it – it was the new Mary Janes Farm Tex Mex Organic Beef Casserole. I put my MSR Quick 1 Ti pot into service this trip with my Snowpeak Giga stove.

Upon opening it was a normal MJF meal with the addition of a very large plastic bag inside, I found that odd – considering that the company prides itself on more enviro choices.

The beef was in the plastic bag, which being plastic was covered in the dry sauce mix. So after flicking off as much as I could back into the bag I opened up the bag…only to find that the beef was…..JERKY! It wasn’t that it was bad but frankly I had envisioned ground beef, not jerky. It is from eyeballing it about 2 Tablespoons of meat in a diced/shred size. For $13.50 (yes, I paid that much) the bulk of the meal is pasta and lentils with a few vegetables and a little beef. You would do better to buy the vegetarian Chili Mac and stop at a sketchy truck stop on the way to the trailhead and buy a container of jerky snuff (it looks like a plastic tub of chew but holds finely shredded jerky). For about a $1 you would get 2-3 times the meat. OK, OK….it isn’t organic but I like meat these days and mini portions don’t do it for me!

With the meat added:

It is an easy meal to make, just add in 1 cup boiling water and let sit. I have found that MJF meals do best if you can give the pasta ones an extra 5 minutes sitting time and be put in a cozy it will be less soupy. The flavor/texture wasn’t bad and it made a nice lighter lunch (easy to digest while hiking on) but yes, it did need more meat 😀

Jared munching on one of his bars that he made from one of my recipes, Cran-Mac Caramel Bars:

Salmon berries just coming into ripeness:

On the way back the wind was blowing up valley, towards Rainier. It was very nice. In the sections on the river it kept us very cool. In the deep forest, well not so much.

It is always odd no matter how many times I hike this trail to be able to see the road across a gaping maw of river and know that it used to be there:

A last look upriver before we headed into the forest for good:

The GPS showed a shy 15.40 miles. It isn’t horribly hard elevation wise (you only gain about 500 feet to the campground) but the road part does do one’s feet in by the end.


4 thoughts on “Out On The Carbon

  1. What a beautiful hike–love the pictures.

    Isn’t the Wonderland Trail the same one you can access from Sunrise? I used to go up there all the time when I lived in WA. Uh, almost–yikes–20 years ago.

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